I know this is possible:

The detective recovered a personal diary from the scene of crime. The diary reads - "I'm committing suicide"

But then what if it's an audio tape?

The detective recovered an audio tape from the scene of crime. The audio tape hears....

The thing that comes to my mind is ...

...audio tape says...

But then, why 'say' and not 'hear'?

The verb attached to book is 'read' because we 'read' it. So, we 'hear' tape, not 'say' something to tape!

  • 1
    Read is versatile: “This is Bravo Leader, do you read me? Over.” “Bravo Leader, this is Cobra Leader, I read you five by five. Over.” --The Peregrine Memorandum, by John W. Dowdle. – Damkerng T. Aug 7 '15 at 5:13

Of course an audio tape can't hear (or speak literally) on its own. So you need to rephrase:

"I'm committing suicide" was heard on the audio tape.


A voice on the audio tape said "I'm committing suicide".

The second sentence in each example (using read/hear/say) could be past or present tense, depending on whether this is a telling of past events or a present situation.

  • hhmm as I guessed 'said' seems proper +1 – Maulik V Aug 7 '15 at 5:08

Curious to know from the native speakers. However, in India, what you guess is right.

Check the example from DNA:

The audio tape says that the director has equated the relationship to Ram and Sita’s to encourage Hindu girls...

Though we cannot 'say' anything to audio tapes. We can hear the tape, but IMO, we cannot say that!

  • true... In India, I see that frequently +1 for a proper reference. – Maulik V Aug 7 '15 at 5:09

Yet another usage of read is how something is written, a usage you are aware of, and thus we have

This book reads well.

A close equivalent to this for an audio is

This audio plays well.

We would not say

This tape hears well

or any of the other proffered sentences in the OP of that question. We could however, say

This tape sounds good

but not

*This tape sounds well

Similarly, no, we would we not say

*This audio tape hears


This audio tape says

This answer has an American English bias.

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